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What is workplace sexual harassment?

The struggle for workplace equality has been hard fought. Respect and dignity at your job is a basic human right. But people each day endure harassment at in the workplace based on gender.

To protect yourself from gender-based harassment and discrimination, it is important to know what sexual harassment is, what constitutes sexual harassment and the laws that protect you from it.

Two juries decide in favor of sexual harassment victims

When people go to work, they have a reasonable expectation of being treated fairly and in a manner that reinforces their safety. Certain laws exist to support those efforts and to hold employers accountable. If an employee experiences sexual harassment in the workplace, he or she has the right to pursue legal recourse against his or her employer. Two different California juries found in favor of the victims in two different sexual harassment cases this year, showing just how seriously the legal system takes these incidents.

The first case was decided back in January, where more than $11 million was awarded to two former employees of a winery. The women stated that they were fired from their jobs for complaining about workplace sexual harassment. They said that their general manager was the one who victimized them.

Car wash fined $2M for wage and hour claims by multiple employees

In the modern job market, many people are grateful simply to be employed. This appreciation can sometimes cultivate a workplace atmosphere where employers feel emboldened to take advantage of employees. There are laws against doing this, but it still occurs in many workplaces which may lead employees to file varying wage and hour claims against employers. Recently, a car wash here in California was fined more than $2 million for what authorities say were wage theft violations.

The car wash in question allegedly failed to pay minimum wage and overtime pay to 64 workers. Representatives for the workers also say they were forced to pay for their own towels to use while on the job without any reimbursement. The two joint owners and the car wash's parent company were deemed liable by the California Labor Commission.

Woman claims she experienced workplace discrimination at Netflix

Workplaces cannot discriminate against an employee for certain protected characteristics, including race, religion and gender. Pregnancy is also a protected class -- employers are not permitted to discriminate against an employee due to pregnancy. However, that is exactly what one woman here in California alleges regarding her former employer -- online entertainment giant Netflix. She says that she experienced workplace discrimination after she informed her boss that she was pregnant.

The woman worked on several projects relating to international content. She claims that once she revealed her pregnancy, her boss stopped including her on project-related emails and meetings. She also alleges that her boss made negative comments regarding her appearance. When she reported this behavior to human resources and asked to change to a different department, she claims she was told that she would have to discuss the matter with her boss. She claims that her boss attempted to get her to quit rather than take maternity leave and that she was soon fired without due cause.

Key considerations re whistleblowing in California

Maybe you’re a researcher in a medical laboratory, and are bothered by your knowledge that company principals are falsely reporting results to government agencies to receive grant money.

Or perhaps it’s the case that you review billings for a care facility, and notice that charges being reported for patients receiving Medicare are grossly inflated.

5 facts about workplace retaliation

Every employee in California has the right to stand up for themselves and their co-workers without fear of punishment from their employer. Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an employee for taking part in a "protected activity," and it is illegal. Here are five facts to help you recognize retaliation in your workplace

Senate bill targets workplace discrimination based on hairstyle

Employees have a reasonable expectation that they will be treated fairly by their employers. They expect that they will be judged primarily on their ability to fulfill their job descriptions. History has shown that, sadly, this is not always the case. Some employees face judgment pertaining to their race, sex, or religious beliefs. A new California Senate bill seeks to protect one other part of a person's life from workplace discrimination – the hairstyle that employees choose.

Advocates of the bill, including Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who sponsored it, say that some employees face discrimination due to their hairstyles. People of color often wear their hair in ways that protect it, since African-American hair is often a very different texture from Caucasian hair. Some employers have been accused of discrimination against people of color who wear their hair in braids, locs or twists.

California law mandates sexual harassment training for employees

Most people have certain aspects of their jobs that they dislike. For some, those factors can be much more serious than just a basic resistance to certain job functions. Some people are unfortunate enough to experience sexual harassment while at work. Though sexual harassment has been against the law for some time, it can be difficult to prevent. This is why lawmakers in California passed legislation that requires certain employees to have sexual harassment training.

The state Senate bill was enacted in the fall of last year. It says that any employer with more than five employees must have those employees receive training in recognizing, preventing and reporting sexual harassment. Previously, the law stated that only supervisor-level employees who work for companies with more than 50 employees had to have the training. All employees must have at least one hour of training, while those who serve as supervisors are required to have two hours.

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